Children are the future and west suburban Chicago is home to countless adults who are devoted to making a difference in their lives. Here, we feature a few of them. Get to know these individuals and couples who are paving the way for kids in the area in a variety of ways. Their stories will uplift and inspire you as they share how they’re giving back to local kids.
Mike Clements of Geneva Mike and wife Elizabeth first lived in Sugar Grove, and briefly moved to Chicago. After having their son, Mikey, they moved back to Geneva in 2013 and have never looked back.
Mike is a new child advocate for CASA Kane County. He first became involved with CASA Kane County back in October of 2014 as a member of the chairman’s advisory panel. Shortly after joining the panel, Mike began the training process to become an advocate. “The training is extensive and requires several months to complete,” he says. “At its core the primary responsibilities of an advocate are to give the child a voice in the system, to be a constant in their life, and to be the eyes and ears of the court.” Mike was sworn in this past April.
As for his devotion to the children in the area, Mikes credits being a father himself and knowing that his own son feels safe, happy, and loved. “Although all children deserve to feel safe, happy, and loved, many do not,” he shares. “I am devoted to helping as many of these children as possible to thrive in life, not just survive."
To learn more about CASA Kane County visit here www.casakanecounty.org
Ellen Beaulieu of Sugar Grove Ellen Beaulieu and husband Ed have lived in Sugar Grove for the last 14 years and have two sons, Austin and Cole. The couple recently sold their home in Lakes of Bliss Woods and purchased one of Sugar Grove’s oldest farmhouses, which they are remodeling and seeking to make a historical landmark.
Ellen really enjoys being outdoors and around animals, which is one of the reasons she decided to purchase a farm and became a volunteer for Farm Friends in 2010. Farm Friends was established in 2008 by Ted and Susan McCannon and “its mission is to assist individuals and families with special challenges by providing suitable workshops, enjoyable activities, and therapeutic programs for people with unique needs in a peaceful rural farm setting,” she adds.
Ellen has always loved working with individuals with special needs and Farm Friends has brought her back to her original passion of special education. “My goal and mission is to create unique opportunities for people with special needs,” she shares. “I’m committed to sharing my love of nature and animals with others to illustrate how connected and similar we all are.” Farm friends will be hosting four special family fun days this summer on 6/14, 7/19, 8/16 and 9/20. To learn more visit www.farmfriendsnfp.org
Jackie Boquist of Palatine / Wheaton Jackie Boquist has lived in the Chicagoland area all her life, growing up in Libertyville, and moving to Palatine about a year ago with fiancé Matt. The couple also has a pet rabbit named Oliver.
For Jackie, the love of nature is a constant calling. “Whether it’s walking, hiking, canoeing, or just sitting and listening to bird calls, as long as I’m outside, I’m happy,” she adds.
Her love of nature spills over in her work, as she’s an educator at the Cosley Zoo and has been for 2.5 years. Last fall, Hillary Shumate, a teacher at Hadley Junior High in Glen Ellyn, reached out to her to help them come up with a “problem” for their 7th grade science students. This problem would be used to implement a new district initiative called problem based learning, or PBL. To help the Hadley 7th graders, Jackie sat down with other Cosley Zoo staff members and came up with a challenge for the kids and helped them develop and research answers for that particular challenge.
“It was great for the students and their learning growth, but it was also really rewarding for me to watch them take ownership of their ideas,” she says.
To find out more about problem-based learning, visit www.d41.org/d41pbl.htm. To learn more about Cosley Zoo, visit cosleyzoo.org.
Tom and Kathy Liss of Downers Grove Tom and Kathy Liss have three daughters, identical twins born three months premature, Amy and Kelly (32), and their younger daughter, Lindsay (27). The couple has resided in Downers Grove since 1987. Both Tom and Kathy are active with Easter Seals DuPage & Fox Valley.
Their daughter Amy has severe cerebral palsy and is a spastic quadriplegic, and receives occupational, physical, and speech therapy at Easter Seals. “It’s very easy to give back to a place that has done so much for us,” the couple shares. “Easter Seals has provided us with the therapy Amy needed and the support that we needed for 32 years.”
Tom and Kathy not only lend a helping hand in all aspects of Easter Seals, but their twins Amy and Kelly have worked together for the past 6.5 years in the development department to further client relationships and promote the organization’s mission by planning fundraising events.
The couple recently received the Carol and Jack Sanicki Crystal Heart Award, recognizing their 30+ years of commitment to Easter Seals. “We were humbled and honored to receive the Crystal Heart Award this year,” they share. “We may deserve a piece of this award, but it really belongs to Amy’s team – all those who love and support her every day.”
To learn more visit www.eastersealsdfvr.org Liss photos by volunteer photographer Rich Howe
Photos by Lynn Logan Unless Otherwise Submitted